Helen's story - This simple home test saved my life
Helen was aged 56 and feeling 100 per cent healthy when she received a bowel cancer screening test in the mail.
She completed the test without hesitation, and luckily so, it may have saved her life.
"It was life changing. I had no symptoms and absolutely no idea I had bowel cancer," she said.
"Without the screening program who knows what may have happened."
Detecting bowel cancer early is one of the best defences against the disease. In fact, as many as 90 per cent of cases can be successfully treated if found early, and it's easy, thanks to the home screening test.
Cancer Council recommends that healthy people aged between 50 and 74 use the home test to screen for bowel cancer every two years.
While Helen did not hesitate when she received the test, this is not always the case for others. Less than half of eligible Victorians are currently completing the free test when they receive it in the mail.
It's a fact that angers Helen.
"People often think it won't happen to them; but I'm proof this is not the case. I urge you; do the free test when you receive it in the mail. It could save your life," she said.
Still need convincing? Here are Helen's top tips.
- Give it a go. Many people put off the test because they're afraid they will get it wrong. It's actually very easy! I followed the instructions and collected my samples, first go.
- Don't fear the ick. The test is not at all invasive or gross. It's simple, easy, and best of all you can do it at home.
- Don't put it off. Finding my cancer early meant it could be successfully treated. Because of this, I've been able to keep doing the things I love, like skiing holidays with my husband.
- Talk to your loved ones about bowel cancer and urge them to do the test if they're eligible. It could save their life too.
For Don, the screening test was potentially a life-saver.
After receiving and completing the kit in 2016, the 55-year-old was surprised to find out that his test result was positive. He had no symptoms and was living an active and healthy life.
Don was referred to his GP where subsequent tests identified a 5cm cancerous tumour in his bowel that needed to be removed. Thankfully, they found it early. The cancer had not spread beyond the bowel walls and was classified as stage one.
He said the screening kit was a gift for living, the best and most significant gift he has ever been given.
Charlie Speirs and Margaret Speed
Brother and sister duo Charlie and Margaret both owe their lives to the home screening test.
Charlie's diagnosis came after completing the screening test at the age of 60. His cancer was found early and successfully treated.
But this story is remarkable because not only did the test save Charlie's own life, it also potentially saved his sister's.
Charlie's medical team encouraged his family to undergo screening, which led to his sister Margaret getting tested. She was diagnosed with a more advanced form of bowel cancer, which may have not been detected until much later without her brother's diagnosis. The doctors said that Charlie's test saved her life.
Six years later, she is in remission. Thanks to the test Charlie and Margaret are both living healthy lives with their families and grandchildren.